Galveston: Bitter cold temperatures prompt concerns

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by T.J. Aulds / The Daily News

khou.com

Posted on February 4, 2011 at 12:41 PM

GALVESTON—School districts announced closings, hardware stores saw a run on space heaters and pipe insulation, and state highway officials repeatedly tried to put down rumors that the Galveston Causeway would be closed as a line of freezing precipitation approached Galveston County bringing one of the coldest stretches locals have faced since 2004.

On the bright side, there were no rolling power blackouts as there were Wednesday.

Officials with the National Weather Service extended a winter storm warning to noon today and predicted up to 3 inches of snow and sleet with some isolated instances of up to 4 inches. Temperatures were expected to be five to seven degrees colder than the county experienced Wednesday and Thursday.

At about 1 p.m., there were reports of frozen rain in Dickinson, Friendswood and League City.

School, Government Closings

The worsening weather prompted every school district in the county to close today. Some dismissed classes early Thursday in order to get students and staff home before the frozen rain and sleet caused trouble on the roads.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry sent all nonemergency county personnel home early Thursday and announced that all county offices would be closed until Monday morning.

That includes the courts where jury pool members were told not to report until Monday.

The county also opened its emergency operations center, the county judge said.

Some municipalities closed as well.

League City, La Marque and Galveston announced that city halls would be closed today. Santa Fe, Texas City and Dickinson City Halls were scheduled to be open for regular schedules, officials in those cities said.

No Extra Heat To Be Found

The cold weather brought a run on space heaters and materials used to keep pipes from freezing. For some, however, the effort to keep water lines from busting was too little too late.

"We’ve had lots of folks come in and get stuff to repair burst pipes," Bob Eason, owner of Hoffman Lumber in Texas City, said. "People are buying a lot of insolated pipe wrap."

There was also a run on heaters of all types.

The county’s Home Depot and Lowe’s reported that they were sold out of portable heaters. Even those that sold firewood said the supply was drained by midday Thursday.

Given the demand for the heaters, Eason said he was considering making sure he had 15 to 20 in stock next time a cold snap heads this way.

All Eyes On Roads

The main worry for county officials was the roads.

"Our biggest concern is what in some places they call black ice," Henry said. "Your car hits that and it goes sideways, and you never see it coming."

While warnings were issued to be careful about overpasses and smaller bridges, state and county road officials insisted there were no plans to close any roads — especially the Galveston Causeway.

The link between the island and the mainland was expected to remain open despite the weather, because temperatures were not expected to get cold enough to ice the twin bridges.

Texas Department of Transportation officials confirmed Henry’s earlier statements that the causeway, new or old, had never been closed because of ice.

The ferry system that runs between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula were also set to run on a regular winter schedule, state officials said.

Island Transit bus service in Galveston remained shut down until after the weather passed. Meanwhile the Connect Transit bus services in Texas City, La Marque, Dickinson and in the San Leon/Bacliff communities will not start service until 8 a.m., Transportation Director James Hollis said.

This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com’s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.

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